The phone rang twice on that September night in 2012, and both times Bruce Springsteen was on the other end. Well, no, it wasn’t Bruce himself talking to me, but what I heard could not have been more personal. A few months before, a wrecking ball with my name on it had landed its first blow – stage 3 breast cancer. On the night of that concert, I was less than half way through a grueling year-long treatment that would include two surgeries, five months of chemotherapy and radiation. I was in the fight of my life, in the fight for my life – a life that would withstand and overcome two more blows from the wrecking ball that would change virtually everything.
My sister had gone to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on that late summer New Jersey night and I asked her to think of me when two songs were played – “Land of Hope and Dreams” and “Wrecking Ball” because those songs had become my soundtrack, the playlist of my life’s struggles and hopes. They gave me strength courage, and will. But my sister did something much more. When the phone rang the first time, I was not sure what I was hearing. But through all the muffled sounds came something familiar, it was music, it was Bruce, and it was one of ‘my’ songs – “Land of Hope and Dreams.” I sat on the other end, at once smiling and in tears. That song, with its imagery of a train thundering into the unknown armed only with hope, faith, and love gave shape to the inward journey I was on. It helped me believe that despite leaving so much behind, there was also (just maybe) something more ahead. Jumping on that train carried me through and made me believe that there was a way out of that dark woods and that something greater than I could imagine lay on the other side.
The second call was the Wrecking Ball. What I realized about that song just a couple weeks ago is that Bruce does not say about the wrecking ball “let me see what I’ve got.” Instead, he says “let me see what you’ve got.” This is so important, and what makes a song about destruction and endings so uplifting, empowering and hopeful. A big part of living through a personal wrecking ball, or a phoenix process, is that one must fully open up to it, accept it, and not fight against it. I didn’t just say OK and lay down in resignation to the challenges and hard times that came my way. As hard as it was, I said “bring it”. I wanted to see what that ball would bring. And when it knocked me down, I didn’t rush to get up. I sat in the rubble for a while, actively sifting through it to see what was there, finding treasures I had long forgotten, deciding what was of value and what was not. I allowed the wrecking ball to change my life, and despite looking like destruction, it was really a rebirth
Tonight, I am taking my sister, the very one who called me on that night four years ago, to see Bruce and the E Street Band at MetLife stadium. It is his first time back since 2012 and this time I will be there feeling joyful, alive, vibrant, wise and celebrating the man and the music that has not only been by my side though my darkest days but that has always been there waiting for me on the other side to celebrate life, love, faith, hope and the ties that bind. To thank him seems odd, since I do not know him, especially when it is a man as big as Bruce who has been lauded and thanked by thousands. But how can I not. So, Mr. Springsteen, thank you for pouring your heart into your music for all of us to share and please know that by doing that, your music and your spirit have poured into my heart in every stage of my life as it has for so many others. I cannot wait be there to welcome you home to New Jersey tonight.